Courage in Albany: Senate Democrats step up to protect New York’s kids

New York Daily News
April 11, 2016

Thanks to some long-overdue moral fortitude by Senate Democrats, maybe, just maybe, time is running out on New York’s absurdly restrictive statute of limitations covering sexual abuse of minors.

New York is a national outlier — and moral disgrace — with respect to abused minors being able to seek justice in either criminal or civil courts. Under current law, the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for a young man or woman to pursue justice expires when they turn 23.

Which gives people haunted by crimes committed against them as children far too little time to reckon with the horror of being victimized.

For a victim seeking redress against an institution that enabled a predator, the deadline is even earlier: The victim must act by the time he or she turns 21. Reform has been blocked thanks to a dastardly pair of only-in-Albany excuses: The Republican-controlled Senate won’t move, they say, because the Democratic-controlled Assembly refuses to do away with a crazy rule protecting public institutions alone from these suits unless notice to sue is filed within 90 days.

All this may be about to change. The News’ Ken Lovett reports today that  Senate Democrats  are introducing comprehensive reform legislation. Sponsored by Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, it would eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes; create a one-year window in which individuals can bring civil claims against institutions that enabled or protected predators in the past, and treat public and private institutions identically, by carving out an exception to the idiotic 90-day notice of claims provision.

The Democrats  may be in the Senate’s minority, but they are calling the bluff of their colleagues on the other side of the aisle — and of their fellow partisans in the other legislative house.

John Flanagan and fellow Senate Republicans, who have harped upon the notice of claims rule, must now decide whether to block or support a bill that does away with it. And Carl Heastie and Assembly Democrats, who protect that provision, must explain why they don’t have the guts to do what their allies in the other chamber are ready to.

There’s one more reason for the Assembly to be embarrassed into action. As The News reported Saturday, a letter sent to the judge in former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver’s sentencing reveals why a statute of limitations reform bill that Democrats once repeatedly passed may have suddenly gotten bottled up starting in 2009.

That was when Patricia Lynch — a top Albany lobbyist and Silver’s former chief of staff — took on the Catholic Church as a client. The Assembly reform bill never came to the floor again.

Redemption doesn’t come around often in Albany. Heastie and Flanagan should count themselves lucky — and seize the moment.


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